Ukraine aid pool dwindles as Senate heads for break
Congress must act if arms flow is to continue unimpeded, Pentagon spokesperson said.
Democratic efforts to secure more aid for Ukraine will have to wait at least a week as lawmakers head home and available funding dwindles.
“We’re in recess next week, so I would hope very soon, if not right after we come back,” to bring a vote to the floor, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., told reporters at a Tuesday rally for Ukraine aid in front of the Capitol building.
“There should be a sense of urgency about it. We don’t have enough money for the Ukrainians, literally, to defend themselves against [Russian leader Vladimir] Putin’s murderous invasion,” Blumenthal said. “And you know Putin’s playbook is clear: he’s counting on exactly the kind of turmoil that he hopes will envelop this process and we have to prove him wrong.”
Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh told reporters Tuesday that they have “enough funding authorities to meet Ukraine's battlefield needs for just a little bit longer but we need Congress to act to ensure there is no disruption in our support, especially as the department seeks to replenish our stocks.”
In August, President Joe Biden asked for almost $24 billion in new supplemental funding for Ukrainian aid. The money was eventually left out of the continuing resolution that funds the government until Nov. 17.
During the Oct. 3 event, several lawmakers spoke of bipartisan, bicameral support for Ukraine. But clashes are still possible.
“And this battle that you will see playing out in Congress over the next few weeks is ultimately about whether America can be counted on as an ally, can be counted on as a leader,” said Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va. “And I am confident based upon my conversations with both House and Senate members of both parties, that we will get this Ukraine aid package to the floor. And once we get it to the floor, we’ll get a strong bipartisan vote in both houses.”
The calls for continued aid to Ukraine comes as more Americans appear to be growing fatigued 19 months into the invasion. A recent poll found that 41 percent think the U.S. is “doing too much to support Ukraine,” up from one-third in February, ABC News reported Sept. 24. About half believe the support is just right or too little, down from 60 percent.
There are no more funds in the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, the Pentagon’s comptroller Michael McCord said in a letter to Congressional leaders obtained by Defense One. The government uses the USAI to purchase weapons and equipment for Ukraine.
The Pentagon only has $1.6 billion left of the $25.9 billion Congress previously authorized that it is using to replenish the weapons they’ve provided to Ukraine from their own stockpiles through the Presidential Drawdown Authority.
“We have already been forced to slow down the replenishment of our own forces to hedge against an uncertain funding future,” McCord said. “Failure to replenish our military services on a timely basis could harm our military's readiness.”
Meanwhile, there is still $5.4 billion to keep sending weapons to Ukraine through the PDA, which is more than they can currently replace. Singh said they are asking Congress for more funds “because we do need to replenish our stocks as we continue to flow aid to Ukraine.”
Biden’s proposed supplemental included $4.5 billion to refill U.S. weapons, $5 billion for USAI, and $1 billion for foreign military financing, according to a Congressional Research Service report.
Blumenthal placed his trust in America’s allies to step in to help if funds are needed.
“We're going to make it work. Democracies have to make it work. And fortunately, we have strong allies who can fill some gaps if there are any,” he said.